- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2008

A former officer with the Arizona Department of Corrections has been sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined $4,000 for his role in a widespread bribery and extortion conspiracy involving FBI undercover agents he thought were drug traffickers.

Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher, who heads the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said Barnum Haitshan, 35, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judy Cindy K. Jorgenson in federal court in Tucson, Ariz.

Mrs. Fisher said charges against Haitshan were the result of “Operation Lively Green,” an FBI undercover investigation that began in December 2001. Fifty-three persons have been sentenced and two others have pleaded guilty and await sentencing in the six-year-old probe.

Haitshan pleaded guilty to conspiring to obtain cash bribes from persons he thought to be drug traffickers, but who were FBI agents, in return for his help in assisting, protecting and participating in transporting and distributing cocaine from Arizona to other locations in the Southwest.

Mrs. Fisher said that in order to protect cocaine shipments, Haitshan wore his official uniform and carried official forms of identification, used official vehicles and “used his color of authority” to prevent police stops, searches and seizures as he drove the cocaine shipments through checkpoints manned by the U.S. Border Patrol, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and Nevada law enforcement officers.

In March 2006, two U.S. soldiers and a former Air Force sergeant pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Tucson in the Operation Lively Green undercover operation. Curtis W. Boston II, 24, formerly a sergeant in the Air Force; Army Staff Sgt. Rodney E. Mills, 39; and Arizona National Guard Sgt. Gustavo C. Soto, 33, were accused of conspiring to use their positions to “assist, protect and participate in the activities of an illegal narcotics-trafficking organization.”

In order to protect the cocaine shipments, the two soldiers and the airman also wore their uniforms, carried official identification cards and drove military vehicles to prevent police inspections for narcotics as they transported the drugs through law-enforcement checkpoints.

Those who have pleaded guilty in the operation were involved in nearly $500,000 in bribes, Justice Department officials said.

Authorities detailed one of the previous cases, in which soldiers drove three official government vehicles, including two military Humvees, to a clandestine desert airstrip near Benson, Ariz., where they met a twin-engine King Air aircraft flown by undercover FBI agents.

While in uniform, the soldiers supervised the unloading of more than 130 pounds of cocaine from the airplane into their vehicles, which they then delivered to other agents posing as high-echelon narcotics traffickers at a resort hotel in Phoenix, the authorities said.

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